Dressed to Kill by Tony Charles

Spazio COMEL Arte Contemporanea
from 7th June to 22nd June 2014
by Dafne Crocella

The British artist Tony Charles is back in Italy to exhibit at the contemporary art gallery Spazio Comel of Latina. Right here, a year ago, he was the winner of the International Comel “Vanna Migliorin” Award for Contemporary Art, thanks to his work “Fettled Sign”. Now, in addition to other important exhibitions also held in Italy in recent years, including a collective exhibition at the Venice Biennale, he returns with ‘Dressed To Kill’, an authentic tribute to the Italian style through very peculiar works. In fact, among others, Charles presents some large paintings characterized by industrial metal objects that have been polished or worked with a grinding machine with the intent of obtaining movement and beauty. A difficult challenge because these kinds of supports are generally considered only pieces of industrial processing. Such an original artistic choice is due to his background.

Dressed to kill

In fact, he lives in the town of Middlesbrough, an example of urban and industrial revolution and the place that gave him both work experience and artistic inspiration, from factory work to Arts studies and experience at the Platform A Gallery. He is an expert connoisseur of metals and of the industrial processes they imply. His starting point is the perfection of the substrate, the smoothed surface which becomes a pure geometric form, until obtaining a uniform and shiny silvery color.
His artistic action begins with the alteration of the state of regularity, so the metal is scratched, defaced. “These painted objects that again have been industrially ground back to metal, are a presentation of an industrial process as much as an abstract visual language. The excavation of a painting and the erasure of an image with a grinding tool involve a very deliberate action that discovers tensions and divisions between practical purpose and aesthetic decisions.” (Andrew McKeown)
In particular, the large industrial sized works involve the viewer through the reflective quality of the material.

Fettled sign

The works featured are representative of the denuding action of the art object, which can be perceived either as ‘dressed’ or ‘naked’ at the same time. Tony Charles says: “The industrial process I use in my works is called grinding. It is used very often to clean areas of steel and other metals. It is often used to clean up welds or to clean paint or rust from steel. Other terms for this cleanup process are Fettling or Dressing.”

The title of the exhibition ‘Dressed to Kill’ plays verbally with the English language alluding to the elegance in dressing (and in this sense it is a tribute to the style of the Italians, instantly recognizable around the world). The idiom is indeed used to say “dressed elegantly”, as if to impress someone, and has no reference to the verb kill (nor to homonym thriller movies, etc.). At the same time it incorporates the similarity with the technical terms that characterize the type of industrial processing on the object to get the work through a thoughtful aesthetic study. We could say that the material is removed to add aesthetic sense.

This explains also the name of some of the works in the exhibition “Formally Dressed”, “Informally Dressed”, “Fettled Form”, and “Fettled Sign”.

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